85 disputed paintings belong to Beaverbrook gallery: arbitrator
Foundation plans to appeal decision
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton has been awarded most of the 133 paintings that were the focus of an ownership dispute, and the foundation that has been fighting for their custody says it will appeal the decision.
The Beaverbrook United Kingdom Foundation, a philanthropic group founded by Lord Beaverbrook and run by his grandson, Maxwell Aitken III,has maintained for the past three years that the works of art, estimated tobe worth$100 million,were only loaned to the gallery by the late Lord Beaverbrook.
Arbitrator Peter Cory ruled Monday 85 paintings were gifts to the gallery by Beaverbrook, and will remain in the gallery's hands. The gallery will also be compensated for three other paintings that were taken to England in 1976 andsold the next year.
A statement from the current Lord Beaverbrook says while the foundation welcomes the return of 48 of its pictures, it believes aspects of the ruling that are in favour of the Gallery were not informed, and that some evidence was not examined in the decision.
"Sadly, it is inevitable that this outcome will lead to an appeal by the Beaverbrook Foundation," the statement reads.
The 85 paintings include many of the most valuable works, such as J.M.W. Turner's The Fountain of Indolence and Lucien Freud'sHotel Bedroom, worth $25 million and $5 million, respectively.
The foundation had previously proposed to take possession of those two works and sell them. It planned tothen provide the Fredericton gallery with $5 million from the proceeds of the sale and use the remainder for the foundation's charitable activities. The gallery refused.
Both sides were unable to come to an agreement and an arbitration hearing into the dispute, headed by Cory, a retired Supreme Court justice, began in October 2006. It wrapped up in December.
"We're very pleased with the decision," said Dr. Dan O'Brien, chairman of the gallery's board.
Not so pleasing is the news that the foundation will appeal. O'Brien says it is within its right to do so, but he is disappointed that the long battle is still not over.
"No question, but one thing this three-year process has prepared me for is how slow these things move," he said.
The Fredericton gallery opened in 1959, founded by Lord Beaverbrook to honour the province where he was raised. From the beginning, the U.K. press baron and business mogul, born William Max Aitken, stocked the gallery with pieces from his own collection. Over the years, he continued to do so. Aitken died in 1964.
The decision supports the gallery's argument that only those paintings provided to the gallery after 1960 were "on loan" by the foundation. The gallery's lawyer stated during the arbitration that an important change to the foundation's trust agreement in 1960 allowed it to begin lending paintings when previously it was only able to give them as gifts.
Anappeal will not only delay this dispute, but a second legal case against the gallery over 78 other paintings, launched by the foundation's Canadian counterpart, directed by another of Aitken's grandsons, Timothy, has yet to be heard in New Brunswick, as it had been put on hold pendingthe decision involving the British branch.